After edging the T.C. Williams Titans in the first two sets, the West Springfield volleyball team left little doubt in the third.
Led by a pair of aces and a kill from Monica Naderi-Colon, the Spartans opened the third set with an 11-1 run and cruised to a 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-7) victory at West Springfield High School.
"When we have a good run like that," Naderi-Colon said, "it brings our team in a positive spirit and it usually helps [us win]."
In the Spartans’ previous match, a 3-0 loss to Robinson on Sept. 30, West Springfield lost a pair of close sets before suffering a lopsided defeat in the third. This time, it was the Spartans coming out on top in such a manner — something head coach Stephanie Noriega credited to mental toughness.
“I was really proud of my girls for stepping up their mental game today,” Noriega said. “We had a rough game last week against Robinson, where we kind of mentally collapsed, so we’ve been working on that for the last week, and they really did it. It was all them. They stepped up to that challenge of playing mentally stronger and I think that’s what made the difference in those first two sets.
“… It’s funny because the exact same thing happened to us last week against Robinson. The first two sets were super close … and then the third set, we were the TC of tonight, where we just kind of imploded at the end.”
Senior middle blocker Tina Nagel led West Springfield with 10 kills. Naderi-Colon and Jennifer Zimmerman each had eight kills for the Spartans.
Sydney Cordoba and Naderi-Colon each had three aces.
“I was really proud of my girls for stepping up their mental game today. We had a rough game last week against Robinson, where we kind of mentally collapsed, so we’ve been working on that for the last week, and they really did it. It was all them. They stepped up to that challenge of playing mentally stronger and I think that’s what made the difference in those first two sets."
--- West Springfield volleyball coach Stephanie Noriega
West Springfield overcame a 15-10 deficit to win the second set. Trailing 23-22, the Spartans scored the final three points, including an ace from Naderi-Colon and a kill by Zimmerman.
“We really dug deep as a team and we really had to come together,” Nagel said. “We started talking and once we started talking, everything just kind of fell together. We got out of our funk and we played our game.
“I think that TC is a good team and they were playing well, but I think we came together as a team and when we play really well, we can beat the best teams.”
T.C. Williams (10-5) suffered its first loss since Sept. 21, when the Titans fell to Madison in the semifinals of the Stallion Stampede tournament. TC head coach Michael Burch said the Titans changed their scoring philosophy after the graduation of 6-foot-1 standout Kate Whitmire, a four-year varsity athlete who tallied 549 kills as a senior in 2012. Whitmire is now a freshman on the James Madison University volleyball team. This year, TC is relying on serving and passing. On Tuesday, the Titans struggled in both areas, Burch said.
“We actually did not play very well in the first two [sets],” Burch said “… We did not pass or serve very well. … Losing the close ones was our fault.”
Sophomore Alexus Foreman led TC with eight kills. Burch said the 5-foot-2 left-hander is smart in the way she attacks.
Senior libero Savannah Devereux and sophomore Amara Edwards each had three aces.
“To the credit of the girls, they’ve really stepped up without Kate and without Sydney [Trout],” Burch said, “and played a different style and [handled] everything that’s been thrown at them.”
Noriega praised TC after the match.
“I’m impressed with TC,” she said. “Shoutout to them for having a strong team after kind of resting on Kate for the last couple of years. In a lot of ways, I’m much more impressed with them this year than the past couple years. You take that team and Kate to it, they’d be unstoppable. So shoutout to them. They’re a solid team. I hope I don’t have to play them again.”
West Springfield (11-8) will host Lake Braddock at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10. T.C. Williams (10-5) will host Washington-Lee.